Interesting Times and Places: Sustainability in Higher Education in the Asia-Pacific

RYAN, A.; TILBURY, T.; CORCORAN, P.B.; ABE, O.; NOMURA, K. (eds) (2010)

Dr. Alex Ryan and Professor Daniella Tilbury, University of Gloucestire, present a review on Sustainability in Higher Education in the Asia-Pacific: Developments, challenges, and prospects, a special issue published by the International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education.

The Asia-Pacific region has an increasingly influential presence and role in the global Higher Education (HE) landscape, which underlines the importance of recognizing its progress and vision in sustainability. The sheer size, complexity and extreme richness of cultural and ecological diversity in the region make it a critical test bed for efforts to bring about more sustainable ways of life. Nevertheless, apart from certain initiatives in Australia and New Zealand, the scholarly literature has not yet reflected the scope and significance of the region’s sustainability education, research and practice.
The International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education has published a Special Issue to address this imbalance and to showcase the distinctive work under way to accelerate sustainability innovation in HE across the region. The collection includes a series of cases and perspectives, with contributions from Japan, India, the Philippines, the South Pacific Islands, China and Taiwan. The authors discuss key ‘developments’ in their varied social and policy contexts, consider the ‘challenges’ in these initiatives, and reflect upon the ‘prospects’, implications, and lessons that can be learned.
These articles bear witness to diverse efforts within HE and in dialogue with HE, bringing new voices into scholarly discussions about strategic change for sustainability in the educational arena. There are illuminating examples of work to establish campus ‘greening’, of cross-sectoral and community projects, and of new teaching and research initiatives. Perhaps most importantly, there are efforts to achieve strategic integration and the much sought-after ‘whole institution’ response. The Asia-Pacific has been a key influencer in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), having helped to initiate the DESD, and the aims of ESD for systemic change are clearly evident here.
If sustainability is fundamentally a learning process as much as it is an ideal, the efforts of academia are critical to its steady progress. This collection offers inspiration to those working to unearth new experiments, ideas and values in support of sustainability. As we continue to grapple with the difficulties and opportunities of recession in HE, this collection offers much comparative insight. The spectrum of socio-economic realities, governance patterns, colonial and semi-colonial histories, and ecological challenges, provide fruitful material for our ongoing efforts and scholarly discussion worldwide.
As a rapidly-expanding academic producer and partner, the Asia-Pacific region will play a definitive role in future efforts to address sustainability at global level. This collection is part of the learning, discussion and practice, with rich but realistic examples of the potential and challenges of shifting HE towards sustainability. With a nod to the much-cited Confucian motto, we think it makes interesting reading in these ‘interesting times’.

About the author

Ryan, A., Tilbury, T., Corcoran, P.B., Abe, O. & Nomura, K. (eds) (2010) Sustainability in Higher Education in the Asia-Pacific: Developments, Challenges and Prospects. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Volume 11, Issue 2

Friday, July 23, 2010


  • UNESCO. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
  • The Catalan Association of Public Universities (ACUP)

Sponsored by

  • Generalitat de Catalunya. Ministry of Business and Employment. Department of Research and Universities
  • Generalitat de Catalunya. Ministry for Foreign Action and Open Government